Lilith Definition

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Who was Lilith? What does her name mean in the Bible? Is she a real person or someone that is a myth?

The name Lilith is taken from a single passage of the Bible. It is based on the Hebrew word liyliyth (Strong's Concordance #H3917) found only in Isaiah 34. The word itself means "a night specter" or screech owl.

Lilith is found in a section that warns the entire world (Isaiah 34:1 - 2) of the day of the Lord's vengeance (verse 8). All of Isaiah 34 is a prophecy concerning the end time Day of the Lord, when God will punish all those on earth (especially Edom) for following the devil's evil ways and refusing to repent. Destruction will be everywhere with cities not only destroyed but also abandoned and fit for only wild animals (verses 11 - 15).

The verse from which the name Lilith is derived is found in Isaiah 34:14.

The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl (liyliyth) also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest (Isaiah 34:14, KJV).

Who is she?

Various Bible commentaries and other information sources have slightly differing opinions on Lilith.

"(Lilith is) a female goddess known as a night demon who haunts the desolate places of Edom" (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions).

". . . in Jewish superstition a female, elegantly dressed, that carried off children by night" (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary).

"In Jewish folklore she is a vampire-like child-killer and the symbol of sensual lust" (Infoplease).

"A type of female Mesopotamian demon, typically seen as coming to men in dreams and as endangering women during pregnancy or childbirth" (Wiktionary).

"Lilith was believed to have a special power for evil over children . . . (she) becomes the first wife of Adam, but flies away from him and becomes a demon" (1911 Encyclopedia Britannica).

"The first wife of Adam in Hebrew folklore, believed to have been in existence before the creation of Eve" (The Free Dictionary).


What could she look like?

"A drawing and a few inscriptions indicate the appearance of a lilith as a young naked woman with long disheveled hair and prominent breasts and genitals . . ." (The Witch by Ronald Hutton).

This description would make her something like a demonic version of a hermaphrodite. In humans, a hermaphrodite is a person who possesses a genetic defect that gives them both male and female sexual characteristics.

Origination

A 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article on demonology and Lilith sums up the origination of this mythological queen of the demons.

"It is certainly significant that, instead of borrowing from the abundant legends and doctrines ready to their hand in the alien systems (the Persians and Babylonians), the rabbinical demonologists sought their starting point in some text of their own scriptures and drew forth all they wanted by means of their subtle and ingenious methods of exegesis.

"Thus the aforesaid text of Isaiah (Isaiah 34:14) furnished, under the name of Lilith, a mysterious female night spirit who apparently lived in desolate places . . . (and who was) the mother of demons" (1913 Catholic Encyclopedia).

Modern times

According to the online site Infoplease, late in the 20th century Lilith became a symbol of female empowerment. She lent her name to a travelling music festival centered on women.

List of terms in
Dictionary of Biblical Words

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